Santos Laguna, Toluca linked by owners, set to battle in Liga MX finals

Editor's Note: These stories were originally published in Spanish for ESPN Deportes. Find the originals here and here.

Santos vs. Toluca, a rivalry with a family touch

MEXICO CITY -- The stories of Liga MX sides Toluca and Santos have been intertwined for a good portion of their respective existence. Both clubs, about to play their third liguilla final against each other, have enjoyed a close relationship because of the presence of the powerful Grupo Modelo brewery that previously owned Santos. Toluca's owner, Valentin Diez, has served as a consultant and chairman to Grupo Modelo as well.

The Red side, Toluca, was the first to become a part of this family when Nemesio Diez bought the team back in 1959. Diez was the main engine behind the side's growth after former Mexico President Adolfo Lopez Mateos suggested him to become its owner. Diez Riega, who has since passed away, was responsible for writing a large chapter of Toluca's history. His son Valentin inherited ownership and has continued the team's successes that started when his father was in charge of operations.

Both teams can claim its close relationship because of the importance of the Diez family inside Grupo Modelo throughout its existence, a tie that continues to this day. Valentin is the current president of the corporation's consulting board while also being Toluca's owner.

Santos Laguna's ownership was fully acquired by Grupo Modelo in 1993, two years after it became the organization's largest owner. Grupo Modelo already had 10 years in charge of Santos' daily operations with continued success: its four Liga MX titles were achieved when Grupo Modelo owned the club.

The Territorio Santos Modelo complex was finished in November 2009 and its creation was a product of the brewery's involvement. In August 2013, Grupo Modelo was bought by the multinational AB InBEV brewery, the beginning of the end of Modelo's ownership in Santos Laguna. The Brazilian-Dutch holding sold a large part of its team shares to Orlegi Deportes, becoming a mere stakeholder. -- Ivan Canada

Frugality key to Toluca's Clausura succes

Toluca advanced to the 2018 Liga MX Clausura tournament as its league leader, with a seven-point lead over its closest rival. They were able to beat teams with more expensive rosters, doing the same in the Liguilla and claimed a spot in the finals. Out of the eight clubs that advanced to the Big Dance, the Diablos Rojos had the second lowest-paid roster. Only Monarcas Morelia has a less expensive payroll.

The side led by Hernan Dario Cristante has a payroll worth $32 million, making it the 12th highest-paid roster in Liga MX above Necaxa, Morelia, Lobos BUAP, Atlas, Puebla and Veracruz Tiburones Rojos, according to Transfermarkt.

Fernando Uribe is the highest-paid player in their squad with a $3.3m salary, followed by Antonio Rios ($2.95m), Santiago Garcia ($2.36m) and Alfredo Talavera, Luis Quinones and Alexis Canelo ($2.12m each).

Diablos faced Monarcas and its $31.42m roster in the quarterfinals. Both teams ended up with a 4-4 two-legged tie, though Cristante's side advanced due to its position in the table. In the semifinals, Diablos played Club Tijuana, the team with the ninth largest payroll (worth $40.1m), and defeated them 5-3 on aggregate.

Now, the Toluca side will face Santos in the finals. Santos has the fifth-highest roster in Liga MX in terms of salaries, right below Tigres, Monterrey, Pachuca and Club America. Djaniny Tavares is its highest-paid player, earning about $6m.

Both teams will play the first leg on Thursday at 8 p.m. Mexico time at the Estadio Corona and the second leg on Sunday, May 20, at 7 p.m. at the Nemesio Diez Stadium. -- Carlos Herrera